BRITAIN FACES the real risk of blackouts this winter because of unexpected shutdowns at the nuclear sites, energy researchers have warned.
Higher gas prices and outages are predicted as gas-red power plants ramp up generation in an effort to meet the worst case scenario of a 6gW drop in nuclear generation.
Energy analysts Wood MacKenzie's report A Nuclear Winter for the UK? was published following the sudden shutdowns last month of reactors at Hunterston B and Hinkley Point B due to boiler tube cracking.
In addition it was announced that Hartlepool had been shutdown for works and its sister plant Heysham 1 would also have to close. Dungeness B is out until April next year due to refuelling problems.
Heysham 2 and Sizewell B are out of service but are expected to be fired-up in time for this winter.
The National Grid puts peak electricity demand in the UK at 63.1gW, being met by a capacity of 76.3gW. With the nuclear outages peak capacity is cut to 70.3gW.
To keep the reserve margin at 20%, generation at gas-red power stations must be ramped up. This takes 27Mm 3/day of gas away from industrial customers.
This is twice as severe a situation as last year when one in eight industrial customers suffered interruptions.